26 May 2015

Dhanush 155mm Artillery Gun: A “Make in India” Marvel

24 May , 2015

Dhanush as an artillery system has proved to be one of the best amongst its class. A 45 Calibre towed gun system capable of targeting at long ranges incorporating autonomous laying features and having one of the most sophisticated suites of electronic and computing systems in the world.

…the success of 155mm/ 42 Cal Dhanush under trial is of paramount importance for the futuristic ATAGS programme.
A leading Indian daily “The Times of India” quoted the defence minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar when he addressed the parliamentary consultative committee on defence on April 21, that the 155mm/45-calibre Dhanush howitzers had “successfully met all technical parameters” during the winter and summer trials at Sikkim and Pokhran. He also stated that Dhanush incorporates “many improved features” over the Army’s existing artillery guns.

This revelation has created a buzz amongst the arms manufacturers and rightly so since Dhanush as an artillery system has proved to be one of the best amongst its class. A 45 Calibre towed gun system capable of targeting at long ranges incorporating autonomous laying features and having one of the most sophisticated suites of electronic and computing systems in the world.

Afghan Government Depending on Warlords and Local Militia to Fight Taliban in Northern Afghanistan

May 25, 2015

Afghans Form Militias and Call on Warlords to Battle Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — Facing a fierce Taliban offensive across a corridor of northern Afghanistan, the government in Kabul is turning to a strategy fraught with risk: forming local militias and beseeching old warlords for military assistance, according to Afghan and Western officials.

The effort is expected to eventually mobilize several thousand Afghans from the north to fight against the Taliban in areas where the Afghan military and police forces are losing ground or have had little presence. The action is being seen as directly undermining assurances by officials that the security forces were holding their own against the Taliban.

Further, the plan to turn to irregular forces is stoking anxieties of factional rivalries and civil strife in a nation still haunted by a civil war in the 1990s in which feuding militia commanders tore the country apart. Some of the commanders involved in that bloodletting a generation ago now hold senior government positions and are encouraging the current effort to mobilize and rearm militias.

Can the Islamic State Survive?

MAY 23, 2015 

THE fall of an autocrat leads to foreign occupation and civil war. A revolutionary movement with a messianic vision capitalizes on the chaos to gain power. The revolutionaries rule through terror and the promise of utopia, and inspire copycats around the world. But other nations impose a quarantine, internal rivals regain ground, and despite initial successes the new regime seems unlikely to survive — especially once outside powers, including the United States, join the fight against it.

This is the story to date of the Islamic State, which defied predictions of its imminent collapse by capturing Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria last week. A “tactical setback,” President Obama called these developments, and quite possibly they are; it’s still hard to imagine that the self-styled caliphate can long endure.

But this is also the story of the Soviet Union’s early days, when it seemed highly implausible that a cabal of Bolsheviks would rule the Russian empire for seventy-odd years. When the Bolshevik regime was about the age that the Islamic State is today, the United States, France, and Britain were supporting its White Russian adversaries and landing troops in Russia; Japan and a reborn Poland were pressuring the Bolsheviks from east and west; and the fear instilled by the Red Terror seemed like the primary force keeping the pariah state from crumbling.

Stirring up the South China Sea (III): A Fleeting Opportunity for Calm

The South China Sea is the cockpit of geopolitics in East Asia. Five countries – Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – plus Taiwan have substantial and competing territorial and maritime claims in a body of water that is both an important source of hydrocarbons and fisheries and a vital trade corridor. The recent history has been scarred by cycles of confrontation. Today, the clashes are becoming more heated, and the lulls between periods of tension are growing shorter. As the region continues to grow in influence and power, the handling of the competing claims will set the tone for relations within East Asia for years. The cost of even a momentary failure to manage tensions could pose a significant threat to one of the world’s great collaborative economic success stories. Despite China’s controversial development of some of the reefs it controls, the current relatively low temperature of the disagreement offers a chance to break the cycle, but it is likely to be short-lived. The countries of the region, supported by the wider international community, need to embrace the opportunity while it lasts.

Bangladesh’s Very Public Toilet Crisis

Tahmima Anam
MAY 21, 2015 

PEOPLE trapped in Dhaka’s notoriously gridlocked traffic have developed various coping strategies. Some take naps. Others work or catch up on social media.
My mother likes to text me to complain about the traffic. “Still stuck in Mohakhali,” she writes. “Two hours from Gulshan to Banani!”

But one thing binds all commuters together: Make sure you use the toilet before you set off, because there won’t be anywhere to go en route.

If I could, I would write a book called “Where to Pee in Bangladesh.” It would be a useful but very short book. It would tell you, for instance, that in our capital city, there are 67 public toilets for over 15 million residents. And of those 67, many have no running water or electricity. According to a 2011 study, only five are fully functional.

The Chinese Navy: The Little Navy That Thinks It Can

Christopher P. Cavas
May 25, 2015

China’s Navy Makes Strides, Work Remains To Be Done

NEWPORT, R.I. — It’s no secret that China has embarked on a major modernization and expansion plan for its Navy, and its aggressive building program, coupled with the placing in service of more modern submarines, an aircraft carrier, destroyers with ever-sophisticated sensors and a large number of long-range surface-to-surface missiles, is altering politics and strategies throughout the Asian theater.

What is not so clear is what sort of fleet the Chinese are building toward, and how far their industrial capability can take them.

That was the theme last week at a two-day conference here to discuss China’s naval shipbuilding progress and challenges. Presenters at the event, sponsored by the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, were in general agreement on several major themes — that China’s Navy will continue to grow and field ever-more capable systems, and that it remains a work in progress.

Three ways China and the U.S. could go to war

23 May 2015

Beijing and Washington are each laying down redlines in the South China Sea, making the upholding of their claims a priority. In this, they are maneuvering themselves into a potential conflict. There are three real-world scenarios under which it could happen

After years of being a focus of interest for specialists, the South China Sea is now getting major attention from the media. The latest is a CNN report that a US Navy P-8 surveillance plane was warned away from some of China’s manmade islands in the Spratly Island chain by the Chinese Navy.

Beijing has not yet declared a formal air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, unlike the one it established over part of the East China Sea in 2013, nor could it today enforce such a zone effectively with its current fighters.

However, with its reclamation activities continuing, and the Obama Administration apparently having decided to challenge China’s claims, the US and China are now potentially closer to an armed encounter than at any time in the past 20 years.

Here are three ways the US and China could go to war:

Beijing’s Formidable Strategy in the South China Sea

By Chunjuan Nancy Wei
May 21, 2015

Beijing is prevailing over its neighbors in the South China Sea. It may also have the solution. 

The U.S. rebalance to Asia has yet to alter the desired outcome for U.S. allies and partners in the South China Sea (SCS): Checking Beijing’s advances in territorial claims. Instead, despite a few successful maneuvers, most of the strategies adopted by the Philippines and Vietnam have backfired. China has seized every opportunity to advance its claims in response to its neighbors’ perceived provocations and operational incompetence. Let us consider some examples of how SCS competitors act, react, and interact in the strategic pursuit of their own self-interests.

Chinese Cyber Espionage: Who Are the Chinese Spying On and How Has the Obama Administration Responded

May 23, 2015

The website The Diplomat has posted a very interesting essay by an academic who specializes in Chinese cyber spying, Greg Austin, entitled China’s Cyberespionage: The National Security Distinction and U.S. Diplomacy. The author raises a good point, which is that the Obama administration does not contest China’s need to conduct national security spying, but the White House does take grave exception to the industrial espionage activities of China’s legion og cyber spies. 

The essay can be read here,

Get Ready, China: America's Lethal B-1 Bomber Might Have a New Home

May 24, 2015

Greg Sheridan writes recently that, despite last week's controversy when Pentagon official David Shear 'misspoke' about U.S. Air Force's B-1 bombers being placed in Australia, the bombers are probably coming to Australia anyway.

I think that's right. As James Brown wrote at the time, the U.S.–Australia Force Posture Agreement hammered out in 2014 ensured that:

...U.S. Air Force rotations through northern Australia should increase, assuming the force posture agreement clears the way for the expansion of runways and ramp space at RAAF Learmonth and RAAF Tindal. Australians should expect to see more USAF long-range bombers, transport aircraft, and air-to-air refuelers operating from those locations.

Sheridan criticizes Shear for giving the impression that the B-1s would be based in Australia. But, says Sheridan, “There are no American forces based in Australia. A range of American forces rotate in and out of northern Australia, which is not the same as being based there.”

Time for America to Get Tough with China

May 25, 2015

It took China throwing sand in America's eyes for Washington to wake up to Beijing's threat to the South China Sea.

Did it take Beijing’s throwing sand in Washington’s eyes to open them to the growing threat China poses to the South China Sea and the region?

Despite American appeals for China to refrain from unilateral actions to enforce its dubious maritime claims and to avoid potential interference with freedom of navigation, China has been busily expanding the physical size of the rocks and islets in the Spratly Islands.

In China’s revanchist quest to upend the regional and global order, its “Great Wall of Sand” is creating not only new facts on the ground, but actual new ground, expanding Beijing’s territorial reach and its 12-mile sovereignty “rights” into international waters.

We just got another sign that the world's economic center is moving east

MAY 23, 2015

We could be seeing a high-speed transport route that runs from China to Europe through Kazakhstan soon - and that says something about global economic trends.

"I propose creating a new, high-speed combined transport route - the Eurasian transcontinental corridor," Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev stated on Friday at an economic forum in Astana, according to the Moscow Times.

The expected volume of cargo in the Kazakh section of the road will make up to 30 million tons per year, according to the Kazakh president.

"The route will connect not only China and Kazakhstan, but also Russia and Europe, and it will have access to the Central Asian countries," he said, according to Vedomosti.

The volume of trade between China and the EU amounts to nearly $600 billion and is projected to increase to $800 billion by 2020, according to Nazarbayev's figures.

China Tries To Jam US Drones Over South China Sea

May 23, 2015

China tried to electronically jam US drone flights over the disputed South China Sea in order to prevent surveillance on man-made islands Beijing is constructing as a part of an aggressive land reclamation initiative, US officials said.

Global Hawk long-range surveillance drones were targeted by jamming in at least one incident near the Spratly Islands, where China is building military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

That statement follows Thursday reports that the Chinese navy warned a US surveillance plane to leave the same area eight times in an apparent effort to establish and enforce a no-fly zone, a demand Washington rejected.

“This is the Chinese navy … This is the Chinese navy … Please go away … to avoid misunderstanding,” a radio call in English from an installation on Fiery Cross said. The warnings were reported by CNN, which had a crew on the aircraft.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the United States does not recognize China’s sovereignty claims over the new islands. He added that flights and Navy ships will continue their routine patrols, but will maintain a distance of at least 12 miles from the island.

Cybersovereignty Symbolizes National Sovereignty

This article was published today in the PLA Daily, and reposted on the Seeking Truth website.

No-one living today can leave the network. The network is changing people’ lives, and is profoundly influencing national security.

Cybersovereignty symbolized national sovereignty. The online space is also the security space of a nation. If we do not occupy the online battlefield ourselves, others will occupy it; if we do not defend online territory ourselves, sovereignty will be lost, and it may even become a “bridgehead” for hostile forces to erode and disintegrate us.

The Internet has become the main battlefront for struggle in the ideological area. With the existence of the network, the ideological front has been completely thrown open, gates of minds have become gates of the country, defence of the mind has become defence of the country, and a battle of the minds has become a hidden war. Whoever controls the network, will seize the commanding heights in the ideological struggle, and command the lifelines of national security and development in the information era.

Army Newspaper: We Can Absolutely Not Allow the Internet Become a Lost Territory of People’s Minds

This article was published originally on 12 May in the PLA Daily

Since ancient times, those who won people’s minds won all under heaven. Now, the main battleground to contend for people’s minds has shifted towards the Internet.

Mao Zedong said: “Whenever you want to overthrow a regime, you must first create public opinion, you must first do ideological work. This is the case with the revolutionary class, it is also the case with the counterrevolutionary class.” The collapse of a regime often begins in the ideological area, the loss of the ideological area is the most dangerous loss. If a military defence line is not stable, it will break down after one blow, if the ideological defence line is not stable, it will fall of its own accord, even without a blow, “political upheaval and regime change might happen in a single night”.

SOF Commanders Confirm That ISIS and Other Militant Groups Evolving and Adapting Rapidly

Joe Gould
May 25, 2015

Special Operators Face Terrorist Evolution

TAMPA, Fla. — For years, Afghanistan dominated the talk at the US Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) here, but this year there was nary a mention of the Taliban, now eclipsed by the Islamic State group and threats that are many, varied and globally networked.

The chief of US Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, speaking at a National Defense Industrial Association conference, said his forces are “operating in possibly the most complex strategic environment in recent history.” Defense budgets are being squeezed even as demand for special ops forces grows.

Recent months have seen an “incredible eruption” in foreign fighters flowing into the Middle East from all over the world in support of the Islamic State group and its affiliates, increasing connections between transnational criminal organizations and violent extremist groups, and ISIS-inspired flare-ups in Africa and Asia. A resurgent Russia is using special operations forces and information operations, Votel said.

Hezbollah Warns That It May Increase Its Forces in Syria

May 25, 2015

Hezbollah says it will step up presence in Syria as needed

Hezbollah is fighting across all of Syria alongside the army of President Bashar al-Assad and is willing to increase its presence there when needed, the leader of the Lebanese Shi'ite movement said on Sunday.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told thousands of supporters via video link that the fight was part of a wider strategy to prevent groups like al Qaeda’s wing in Syria, Nusra Front, and the ultra-hardline Islamic State from taking over the region.

“Our presence will increase whenever it should… Yes, we are not present in one place in Syria and not the other. We will be everywhere in Syria,” he said during a celebration to mark the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from south Lebanon in 2000.

Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is a staunch ally of Assad in the four-year-long Syrian civil war. The conflict has become a focal point for the struggle between Tehran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, which has backed the insurgency.

Syrian Warplanes Bomb ISIS-Held City of Palmyra

May 25, 2015

Syrian air force targets captured Palmyra city - monitor

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria’s air force carried out at least 15 strikes in and around the central city of Palmyra early on Monday, targeting buildings captured by Islamic State, a group monitoring the war said.

Fighters from the militant group overran the ancient city, the site of some of the world’s best preserved Roman ruins, last week. They have killed at least 217 people execution-style in the area since May 16 including children, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

This was in addition to at least 300 soldiers killed by Islamic State in fighting leading up to the city’s capture, according to the Observatory’s toll.

It said the hardline group had detained around 600 soldiers, pro-government fighters and those accused of being loyalists in and around the city, also a key military gain as it stands on a crossroads to the cities of Damascus and Homs.

ISIS & the Shia Revival in Iraq

A screen shot of a video released by ISIS showing militants destroying antiquities in the Mosul Museum in Iraq, February 2015
“We’re ridding the world of polytheism, and spreading monotheism across the planet,” an ISIS preacher recently said in a video recording. Behind him one could see the ISISfaithful using sledgehammers, bulldozers, and explosives to destroy the eighth-century-BC citadel of the Assyrian king Sargon II at Khorsabad, ten miles northwest of Mosul in northern Iraq, and the colossal statues of human-headed winged bulls that had guarded it. Amir al-Jumaili, an antiquities professor at Mosul University, has recorded the destruction of some 160 sites by ISIS since June 2014, when it conquered Iraq’s second city. He showed me some recent entries in his logbook: 

5 March 2015—Nimrud destroyed; 6 March 2015, Hatra destroyed; 9 March 2015, Khorsabad destroyed [i.e., the fourth capital of the Assyrians]. 

ISIS Is Torturing, Enslaving, And Murdering Women At A “Staggering” Rate, U.N. Official Says

“They are institutionalizing sexual violence,” said Zainab Hawa Bangura, U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. posted on May. 24, 2015, at 12:49 a.m.

The militant group ISIS is committing a “staggering array of atrocities” against women as it captures more territory in Iraq and Syria, according to a senior U.N. official tasked with investigating sexual violence in conflict.

Iraqi residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes as ISIS militants tightened their siege on the city. 

Women in ISIS strongholds are routinely raped, tortured, enslaved, and murdered by the Islamic extremists, who have made the brutalization of females a central element of their ideology, according to Zainab Hawa Bangura.

The U.N’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict this week spoke with Middle East Eye about her recent tour of refugee camps across the region, where she interviewed officials, social workers, and sexual violence survivors.

Bloodshed in the kingdom

Islamic State claims its first attack inside Saudi borders May 22nd 2015
SAUDI Arabia has seemed more or less sheltered from the wars and sectarian bloodletting that have raged all around it in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. No longer.

On May 22nd a suicide bomber struck a mosque in the eastern region of Qatif, which is home to the majority of the kingdom’s 2.8m Shias (some 10% of the population). At least 20 people were killed as they gathered in the Imam Ali Mosque; scores more were injured. Islamic State (IS), which has long threatened to attack Shiites in the kingdom, claimed responsibility. If true, it signals that the sectarian violence raging to Saudi Arabia's north and south is now penetrating the kingdom itself, which IS now calls “Najd Province”.

Fresh from capturing the town of Ramadi in Iraq, and the town of Palmyra in Syria (home to some of the world’s finest ancient ruins), the bombing in Saudi Arabia strengthens the perception that the IS “caliphate” is again on an expansionary march. Hitherto IS has had no overt presence in the kingdom, but has made it clear it sees it as a target. In November, a recording by a man purporting to be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, IS’s chief, called on followers to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere”, and announced the extension of his “state” to Saudi Arabia, among other places.

Special Ops to Obama: Let Us Fight ISIS, Already

They’re supposed to be at the forefront of the battle against ISIS. But U.S. special operators say the Obama administration’s restrictive rules of war are harming their mission.

TAMPA, Florida — Fighting simmering frustration in their ranks over ISIS advances in Iraq and Syria, top U.S. special operations commanders say they are building forces for a multi-generational fight—not a war that will be won in the next few years.

“We recognize this is a longterm prospect,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the overall leader of U.S. Special Operations Command, in remarks to The Daily Beast during a special operations forum in Tampa. “We’re patient.”

“We talk about it being a 15-year struggle,” added Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, who heads the Air Force Special Operations Command, said describing the fight.

Shi’ite Militias Launch Counterattack Against ISIS East of City of Ramadi

May 24, 2015

Shiite militia, Iraqi army launch counteroffensive at Ramadi 

BAGHDAD — Shiite militiamen and Iraqi army forces launched a counteroffensive against Islamic State insurgents near Ramadi on Saturday, a militia spokesman said, aiming to reverse potentially devastating gains by the jihadist militants.

Anbar provincial council member Azzal Obaid said hundreds of Shiite fighters, who had assembled last week at the Habbaniyah air base, moved into Khaldiyah on Saturday and were nearing Siddiqiya and Madiq, towns in contested territory near Ramadi.

Two police officers later told Reuters the pro-government forces, which they said included locally allied Sunni tribesmen, had advanced past those towns to within one kilometer of Husaybah, an Islamic State-run town four miles east of the Ramadi city limits.

One officer said the Shiite-led forces exchanged fire with the insurgents, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

The Announcements From Washington and Baghdad of the Decline of ISIS Were Premature (Again!)

Tim Arango and Anne Barnard
May 24, 2015

With Victories, ISIS Dispels Hope of a Swift Decline

BAGHDAD — Just last month, when Western and Iraqi officials talked about the Islamic State, it was mostly to list a series of setbacks to the terrorist group: defeated in the Syrian town of Kobani, battered by a heavy airstrike campaign, forced out of a growing list of towns and cities in Iraq.

But in just the past week, the Islamic State has turned that story around. Last weekend it solidified its hold on Iraq’s Anbar Province with a carefully choreographed assault on the regional capital, Ramadi. And on Wednesday, it stretched its territory in Syria into the historically andstrategically important city of Palmyra.

Confounding declarations of the group’s decline, the twin offensives have become a sudden showcase for the group’s disciplined adherence to its core philosophies: always fighting on multiple fronts, wielding atrocities to scare off resistance and, especially, enforcing its caliphate in the Sunni heartland that straddles the Iraqi-Syrian border. In doing so, the Islamic State has not only survived setbacks, but also engineered new victories.

The Islamic State Raises Its Flag Over Palmyra’s Ruins


The Islamic State released a photo Friday showing its black-and-white flag flying high above the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which is home to ruins that many observers fear the militant group may destroy.

Posted on Twitter a day after the Islamic State declared that it had seized full control of the city, the photo, which shows the group’s flag planted on the ramparts of Palmyra’s castle, was among several images from the city that the group released Friday.

Others displayed weapons taken from the city’s prison, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State’s capture of Palmyra has intensified fears for the city’s rich archaeological heritage, a mix of influences from the Roman Empire, Persia, India, and even China. UNESCO has designated Palmyra a World Heritage site, and its ruins represent some Syria’s richest cultural patrimony.

The Islamic State already has destroyed countless cultural artifacts across the territories it occupies, from the tomb of Jonah in Mosul to dozens of Shiite shrines and mosques in both Syria and Iraq. Now, by flying its flag above Palmyra, the group is showing that that city’s ancient temples, colonnades, and other ruins are also at its mercy.

Who Runs the Islamic State Group?

May 22, 2015

While the jihadi militants include former Baathists, their organizational structure reflects al-Qaida's influence.

In the past year, the Islamic State group has become an international phenomenon for its ambition, its cruelty and its striking military successes. Most terrorism experts agree that the Islamic State group has eclipsed al-Qaida as the world's preeminent jihadi terrorist organization. But despite the group's notoriety, a wide range of theories are still circulating about who really runs the Islamic State group.

Recent reports have revealed that the Islamic State group's leadership contains former high-level Iraqi military and intelligence officials from Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime. These accounts attribute the Islamic State group's rise to the skilled hand of these former regime elements, which the United States displaced by disbanding Saddam's security services in 2003. To some, the presence of these former regime elements in high-ranking Islamic State group positions suggests that the group's formidable capabilities, repression and brutality are the result of the Islamic State group having a Sunni nationalist, not a Salafi-jihadist, outlook.

White House Trying to Figure Out What to Do As 3 Surveillance Laws Are About to Expire

Charlie Savage
May 25, 2015

Obama Weighs Strategy as Data Laws Run Out

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is weighing what the looming expiration of three counterterrorism laws — including the provision that has been cited to allow the National Security Agency to vacuum up logs of Americans’ phone calls — would mean for future operations, even as officials say the “wind-down process” for the bulk calling data program has already begun.

A senior American intelligence official said Sunday that the administration had begun assessing what the rules would be for analysts to retrieve five years of Americans’ calling data previously acquired under the bulk phone logs program, if Congress fails to act by June 1 and the ability to collect newly created records is lost.

Separately, officials are examining whether to invoke a so-called grandfather clause for the three laws that would permit the expiring legal authority to continueafter next Monday for investigations already underway.

OBAMA THE CARPENTER: The president's National security Legacy

By the standards he has set out for himself, President Barack Obama's foreign policy has fallen considerably short of expectations and aspirations. By the standards of his critics, of course, the performance has been even worse—with the American commander-in-chief now accused of fecklessness and irresoluteness as global crises multiply on his watch. Even two of his former secretaries of defense have written fairly harsh verdicts on what they saw while serving in his administration.

Gauged by more reasonable and normal standards, however, Mr. Obama has in fact done acceptably well. Both his critics and his defenders tend to use unrealistic benchmarks in grading his presidency. If we use the kinds of standards that are applied to most American leaders, things look quite different.

Russia still angry about Serbia

By L. Todd Wood 
May 22, 2015

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks at a concert marking the 80th birthday anniversary of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, in Moscow, Tuesday, Feb. 1 , 2011. 

The West frequently asks itself, “Why is Russian President Vladimir Putin so popular? He has harmed their economy. He has stifled the free press. He has destroyed the political opposition. We don’t get it.” Anyone asking this question exposes themselves to the criticism of short term thinking and a lack of appreciation, or ignorance, of history, even though the root cause of Mr. Putin’s popularity happened only 16 years ago.

The NATO intervention in the former Yugoslavia is the genesis of Mr. Putin’s power. This article is not meant to comment on the morality or appropriateness of NATO’s actions, only the consequences within Russia. Slobodan Milošević presided over a reign of terror in several of the Yugoslav provinces; that is a fact. He used mass media to delegitimize certain ethnic groups and accused them of fascist tendencies, setting up justification for military action. Sound familiar? He turned a blind eye to genocide, especially in Kosovo, and supported ethnic cleansing of Kosovo for Serbia. He was eventually extradited to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and died in prison of a heart attack before the trial was concluded in 2006. In 1999, NATO initiated a 2-1/2-month-long, high-altitude bombing campaign of Serb military targets in Kosovo in an attempt to halt the Serbian ethnic cleansing and mass killings of non-Serbs in the region.

Budgets, Diplomacy and Australia’s Foreign Aid

May 24, 2015

Australian diplomacy is going through an “unsettled period.” 

In May, Canberra released its new budget. Many were speculating that the previously embattled government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott – which until recently had been languishing behind the opposition Labor Party in the polls – would be set for a post-budget shakeup if his ratings didn’t improve. They have. And the 2015 budget (key elements here) was a crowd pleaser, with no big losers. With one exception.

The budget cut one billion dollars from the country’s aid program. A full 60 percent of that figure is being cut from the Asia-Pacific region. The biggest loser here was Indonesia, where aid was cut by $219.5 million. This follows through on threats to cut aid in response to the execution of two Australians convicted of drug smuggling earlier this year.

America's Greatest President: Abraham Lincoln

May 24, 2015

As we prepare to observe Memorial Day, it might be a fitting time to ponder just what constituted Lincoln’s greatness.
Whenever academics and scholars tickle their fancy by putting forth yet another poll of historians on presidential rankings, there is little doubt about which president will top the list—Abraham Lincoln. In the numerous such polls executed since Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. pioneered the genre in 1948 for Lifemagazine, Lincoln has come out as number one in nearly all of them. Of the seven surveys I pulled together for my 2012 book on the subject, Where They Stand, the Illinois rail-splitter was judged the nation’s greatest president in six of them. In the seventh (a 2005 Wall Street Journal poll), George Washington came out on top, with Lincoln in second place. (Franklin Roosevelt almost always occupies the number three slot.)

Is the Australian Economic Miracle Coming to an End?

Anthony Fensom
May 24, 2015

Australia's economy has been on a tear for over two decades. How long can the good times really last down under?

Australia has been rated a high risk of slumping into recession, with commodity prices diving, public finances deteriorating and unemployment rising. After a record twenty-four straight years of economic expansion, has the lucky country’s luck finally run out?

From having at one point a stronger currency and lower unemployment rate than the United States, the tables have rapidly turned for the land “Down Under” following the end of the China-driven mining boom.

Analysts have put the chances of a recession in the world’s twelfth-largest economy at as high as 50 percent, hit by a downturn in the nation’s largest trading partner, China, which has slashed prices of key exports such as coal and iron ore.

Britain resigns as a world power

May 21

The front door of 10 Downing Street is pictured in central London on May 6, 2015. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, the Right Honorable David Cameron, prime minister of Great Britain, gave his first major speech after being reelected to his high office — once held by Pitt, Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George, Churchill and Thatcher. Confronting a world of challenges — including Greece’s possible exit from the euro, a massive migration crisis on Europe’s shores, Ukraine’s perilous state, Russia’s continued intransigence, the advance of the Islamic State and the continuing chaos in the Middle East — Cameron chose to talk about . . . a plan to ensure that hospitals in the United Kingdom will be better staffed on weekends. 

Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic.

A decades-old treaty offers clues to evaluating the potential deal with Iran.
This week, with little fanfare, one of the world’s key restraints on the spread of nuclear weapons came under scrutiny, as a month-long review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) concluded at the United Nations. Negotiated over the 1960s, the NPT was signed in 1968 and became international law in 1970. As specified by the treaty, members hold a conference every five years to assess the agreement. The exercise offers insight into our nuclear age, and perspective ahead of the coming debate about a deal to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 
In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, President John F. Kennedy determined that the nuclear order of the time posed unacceptable risks to mankind. “I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these weapons,” he warned the world. “I regard that as the greatest possible danger.”

HELLADS laser weapon to undergo field testing

by Richard Tomkins
May 22, 2015

A new laser from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is to undergo field tests after successfully demonstrating its laser power and beam quality.

The field testing of the High-Energy Laser Area Defense System, or HELLADS, will begin this summer. The series of tests, funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory, will be against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

HELLADS was developed for DARPA by General Atomics.

"The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size," said Rich Bagnell, DARPA program manager. "The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face."

Following the field-testing, DARPA intends to make HELLADS available to the military services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.

DARPA said its HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use.

US Senate Will Try One More Time to Pass Legislation to Allow NSA to Keep Spying Before June 1st Deadline

Jennifer Steinhauer
May 24, 2015

Senate to Try Again After Bill on N.S.A. Collection of Phone Records Is Blocked 

WASHINGTON — After vigorous debate and intense last-minute pressure by Republican leaders, the Senate on Saturday rejected legislation that would curb the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records.

With the death of that measure — passed overwhelmingly in the House this month — senators scrambled but failed to pass a short-term measure to keep the program from going dark when it expires June 1. The disarray in Congress appeared to significantly increase the chances that the government will lose systematic access to newly created calling records by Americans, at least temporarily, after June 1.

“This is a high-threat period,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who was stymied in his efforts to extend the program even for a few days by the junior senator for his state, Rand Paul.

A Missed Nonproliferation Opportunity

May 24, 2015 

Last week the latest quinquennial review conference for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) ended as a failure, without issuing a formal statement or report. The single biggest snag concerned whether to call for the convening of a conference on a Middle Eastern nuclear weapons free zone (MENWFZ). Fingers of blame were pointed in various directions, including at Egypt for pushing some procedural changes regarding the convening of such a conference that some other delegations regarded as needless complications. But the procedural issues were not much of an obstacle and could have been resolved. The more fundamental roadblock was the same one that has been decisive every time the subject of a MENWFZ has come up. Israel doesn't like the idea, and the United States, acting as Israel's lawyer (Israel itself, not being a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, was only an observer and not a full participant in the review conference), blocked approval of the draft statement that was on the table.

The Real Meaning of Memorial Day

May 25, 2015

As long as our nation produces men and women willing to “bear any burden, pay any price,” our nation earns the liberty it enjoys.

Dead matted the fields of Gettysburg, as thick as a corn crop before harvest.

The fallen of World War I were so numerous, that many lay exposed for years, white bones glinting through tattered cloth in the noonday sun.

During World War II, the frozen dead at Bastogne had to be stacked for later burial.

On Okinawa, E.B. Sledge wrote in his diary, “Every crater was half full of water, and many of them held a Marine corpse. The bodies lay pathetically just as they had been killed, half submerged in muck and water, rusting weapons still in hand…. Swarms of big flies hovered above them…For several feet around every corpse, maggots crawled about in the muck….”

This is the type of warfare that shaped the commemoration we know as Memorial Day. Nations went to war with millions under arms. Many families lost all their men. Entire generations were “lost.” And many—too many—sons and husbands were left on the fields where they fell.